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Clickbait and listicles killing journalism says lecturer in his latest book


A Leeds Beckett University academic has attributed the rise of clickbait and listicles in the media as contributing to the demise of regional press.

In his new book, Lost for Words: Can journalism survive the slow death of print? – Journalism lecturer in Leeds Business School, Sean Dodson delves into how local newspapers have evolved in response to staff cuts and diminished resources and how in many cases hard news is being replaced by lighter content.

“In July 2016, the Croydon Advertiser – a 123-year-old newspaper – published two lookalike stories on facing pages,” said Mr Dodson. “Headlined ‘13 things you’ll know if you’re a Southern Rail passenger’ and ‘9 things you didn’t know about Blockbuster’, the articles stood out for their striking similarity.

“They were both an example of an editorial phenomenon more commonly associated with the internet – the listicle – where a list and an article come together. They are incredibly popular, but don’t come without controversy. Listicles assume the public wants information in quick hits and prefers trivia over hard news.”

Mr Dodson said that while listicles aren’t new, they were previously reserved in print journalism as an accompanying sidebar to a leading story or as a standalone special piece such as the annual Sunday Times Rich List.

His book looks at how listicles in newspapers demonstrate the shift in power between print and online.

“These days more journalists work online than in print,” he commented. “While online ads are more valuable than display advertising, it is also significant because online news is no longer dictated by the conventions of print, but mimics the looser set of conventions born on the internet.”

He added that clickbait is known for its dubious quality.

“Listicles form part of a wider phenomenon of clickbait,” he said. “Clickbait is a term that describes web content designed to generate advertising revenue, often at the expense of the ‘traditional journalistic values’ of accuracy, balance or fairness.”

Mr Dodson who is the postgraduate leader in Journalism at Leeds Beckett and has previously worked for titles including The Guardian, said that ‘skillful journalism’ was still flourishing elsewhere, noting circulation highs for magazines such as The Spectator and Private Eye.

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